The Best Time to Trade in Your Old iPhone

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Apple is expected to release a pair of new iPhones at its much-anticipated press event on September 9. If you’re planning on upgrading to a new iPhone 6s, you may be wondering: what’s the best time to trade in your old iPhone to get the biggest payout for it? The answer is that the best time to trade in your old iPhone is now.

Lucas Matney reports for TechCrunch that Gazelle, one of the top destinations for iPhone trade-ins, is offering a promotion running through next Wednesday’s event that “guarantees that Gazelle’s cash offer for the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus will beat the trade-in credit offered by a customer’s wireless carrier (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint) or Apple.”

The promotion’s page states that Gazelle will offer at least $1 more than your carrier, though you must be on AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint for the guarantee to apply. Matney reports that the deal is valid for all memory capacities and colors of the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. Gazelle is offering between $325 and $475 for an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, or between $150 and $200 for the iPhone 5s.  (If you’re curious about what kind of offer Gazelle will give you, Apple Insider has a handy breakdown for you right here.)

Gazelle tells users to keep in mind that you’ll still need to weigh what’s the best offer for you, and that can go beyond the cash value of the trade-in credit. “We’re only guaranteeing the trade-in value of your phone. Some carriers will bundle payment of early termination fees and other incentives along with the trade-in value. Read the fine print to determine what the actual trade-in value is. We’ll only be guaranteeing the trade-in value of your carrier’s offer.”

Gazelle also specifically states that it won’t try to match or beat the deals being offered by third-party vendors like CashforiPhones, Amazon, or NextWorth. Even Walmart and BestBuy accept trade-ins. The Gazelle offer is one of the easiest, quickest ways to get a good deal on your iPhone trade-in before Apple unveils new iPhones next week. But selling your iPhone on eBay or Amazon is another option, as is checking out other trade-in sites.

Lance Whitney reports for CNET that trade-in deals like Gazelle’s take advantage of users’ demand for the latest new smartphones. As carriers’ plans get more complex, and more users end up paying the full retail price for their smartphones, trading in a smartphone that you’ve fully paid for is an attractive way to recapture as much of its value as possible. Whitney reports that the price you’ll get, from Gazelle or anyone else, depends in large part on the model and the condition of the phone.

You can trade in a phone with a cracked screen or other flaws, but it has to be capable of powering on. A used phone is considered in good condition if it works, but shows normal signs of use. It’s considered flawless if it seems like it’s never been used. Other things to note? Gazelle pays more for Verizon iPhones since they’re compatible with both CDMA and GSM networks, and come with GSM unlocked.  Whitney reports that carriers also offer their own trade-in options, though many come with conditions like the activation of a new account, or apply the trade-in value as a credit toward your bill.

Carriers’ deals are also complicated by the fact that many carriers are cutting back on subsidized plans in favor of ones that saddle you with the full retail price of the phone in exchange for the ability to upgrade anytime. Such plans may require you to return your old phone without receiving any cash for it.

If you’re planning on upgrading to a new iPhone, the best thing you can do is to do some thorough research on the trade-in offers available to you. Check the offers from Apple, from your carrier, from Gazelle, and other trade-in sites. The key is to do that research now, since the trade-in value of an existing iPhone model begins to drop as soon as a new model is officially announced.

Because you can get an offer now to lock in a price for a few weeks, it’s best to get the trade-in value guaranteed now, and keep using your old iPhone until your new one arrives. Also on your to-do list if you’re anticipating upgrading to a new iPhone is to properly prepare your iPhone for resale or trade-in, which Jeremy Horowitz recently reported for 9to5Mac you can accomplish in a few easy steps.

More from Gear & Style Cheat Sheet: